"The traditional method of golf does not meet the needs of the modern family”

News & Tour

We analyse the key findings from the R&A's female participation survey

This year could prove a defining one for women and girls’ golf in the UK.

With more events, dedicated participation initiatives and coaching activities available than ever before, there are so many opportunities for females of all ages and abilities to get into golf in 2018.

While many of us are aware of the statistics (only 14 per cent of club memberships in Great Britain and Ireland are held by women and girls), there is a new feel-good factor about the game that could inspire more female golfers onto the fairways.

“I do see a change, everyone seems to be working hard to encourage women and girls into golf,” said Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell, a consistent Ladies European Tour (LET) performer.

“There seems to be a lot of initiatives, like #ThisGirlGolfs and what I see on social media.”

“At golf events, you also see more juniors coming along, especially at the LET events where there are clinics for the girls and other activities. It’s good they are getting access to players at an early age to see what a girl can achieve in golf. When I was growing up, I didn’t really have that access to pros.”

The inaugural Girls Under 16 Open Championship, staged at Fulford at the end of April, offered further optimism.

Launched by the R&A to boost girls’ golf in the UK and beyond, as well provide a pathway for elite amateurs, the 90-player field included representatives from 11 countries. These golfers all wore bright clothes and permanent smiles over three fun-filled days.

Little Rosie Bee Kim, who at only 10 years old was the youngest player in the field, walked off with the under-12 prize. She is just one name to look out for in the future.

Then there’s Jenni Falconer, a working mum and beginner golfer who is spreading her new love for the sport to her large social media audience through a tie up with the PGAs of Europe.

The TV and Radio presenter handled her nerves to achieve her goal of teeing up in the GolfSixes Pro-Am, which this year offered an innovative mixed event featuring Charley Hull and Georgia Hall.

“It’s a brilliant new sport for me, I’ve enjoyed it so much and this is only the beginning,” she said. “I hope that more women and girls come and take up golf too. It’s time out, away from all other stresses, in the fresh air and as much as it tests your patience when things go wrong, it also gives you the greatest buzz when things go right.”

Falconer appears hooked, and new R&A-endorsed research illustrates how important the role of the mother can be if we want to attract more women, girls and families.

The research report analyses the factors which can increase whole family participation in the sport, including women and girls, and details a number of useful practical recommendations for national golf bodies and clubs to help encourage more women and girls to play.

The R&A commissioned the International Institute for Golf Education, based at the University Centre Myerscough, to carry out the research which brings together the findings of existing academic and industry research with the individual views of a wide-ranging group of golf experts.

The key themes identified in the report, which was produced by Dr John Fry and Philip Hall, include:

  • The importance of establishing the optimum environment for family participation by being aware of the changing needs of the ‘modern family’
  • There is a direct link between equality in sports participation and wider measures of gender equality, such as the number of women in influential decision-making positions at various levels in golf
  • Parents are the chief factor underpinning families’ likelihood to play golf and that their motivations for their children taking part include having fun, improving health and developing friendships – not on competition
  • The increasing desire for golf to provide opportunities for socialising and to be adaptable and flexible given the time and cost constraints placed on the modern family
  • The need for the sport to evolve to meet the demands of contemporary society and for clubs to encourage memorable events for their customers, as that memory itself or the ‘experience’, is increasingly replacing the ‘product’ of playing golf for younger people.

“The report brings together for the first time in one place the key academic and industry research articles conducted on family sports participation,” said Fry.

“The process involved searching scientific databases containing more than one million citations, peer-reviewed research papers and selecting the most appropriate evidence based studies that can help underpin strategies to increase participation in golf.”

The research is supplemented with case studies of best practice and analysis from a number of industry experts. It also offers a series of practical suggestions for golf clubs.

“Notably, the traditional method of golf does not meet the needs of the modern family,” added Fry.

“We have a new consumer looking for quick access and smaller versions of sport. Clubs and facilities have to meet their needs, with the role of the mother and parents also being very important.”

Fry concluded the findings by stating: “It’s important golf actions the research for the future sustainability of the sport. There is a clear opportunity to grow golf by attracting different demographics, by attracting that female and family market.”

The research reflects the R&A’s continued drive to encourage more women, girls and families to play golf more regularly, working with its affiliates around the world to enhance golf’s appeal.

Indeed, the R&A has also launched a Women in Golf Charter to galvanise the golf industry around increasing participation by women and girls and the number of women working within the sport.

Pretswell certainly feels the sport is evolving. She added: “My dad played off scratch when he was younger, so he really helped me, but at the same time my mum and my brother played golf as well, so we could all go as a family which made it fun. But there are now more mums who have access to golf and can take a bigger interest. Clothes have helped too, they are bright and fun, and young girls love that.”

“We perhaps think it is harder than it is to attract female players to golf, but if clubs offer the right product and opportunities, like family memberships or memberships for those under the age of 30, then there is a great potential.”

Falconer’s experience of getting into golf certainly backs up the research.

“Going to my first lesson I was feeling quite nervous as I hadn’t played golf before, apart from pitch and putt or crazy golf on holiday,” she recalls. “But everyone has to start somewhere and so far, I’ve only received encouragement from other golfers. It’s a lot of fun.”

Key findings from the survey:

  • There are nine million latent (potential) female golfers around the world
  • Latent female golfers are worth up to $35 billion to the golf industry
  • Golf participation in traditional markets such as UK and USA has witnessed reductions of 4.3% and 7.9% respectively (Sports Marketing Surveys, 2017)
  • UK golf participation rates Oct 2015 – Oct 2016, 729,300 (1.64% of UK population), down from 889,100 (2.18%) Oct 2005 – Oct 2006 (Sport England Active People Survey, 2016)
  • Decline in sports participation most marked between the ages of 16 and 23 (Roberts, 2016)
  • The main reasons given for non participation in golf are cost (37%), the impact of family responsibilities (30%), and the amount of time taken to play (17%) (Syngenta, 2016)
  • “Norway has achieved 40.2% proportion of women on boards. The next cluster of European countries includes the UK… whose percentage of women directors ranges from approximately 14% to 7%” (Department for Business Innovation & Skills report, 2011).
  • Female PGA and trainee PGA professionals make up less than 3% of all PGA pros in Great Britain and Ireland (Kitching, 2017)
  • 65% of females identified husbands, partners, parents and other family as the main reason for taking up golf
  • The family unit has changed in the last 10- 15 years. The ‘modern family’ now exists made up of various configurations e.g. non-biological children, single parent families

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